Former Business Manager of New Jersey IBEW Local Convicted

IBEW logoThere’s nothing wrong with a man spending money to make his lady feel special – as long as it’s his own money. Richard Dressel apparently thought little of that principle. Earlier today, a Newark, N.J. federal jury convicted Dressel, the former business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 164, on two of eight counts for his participation in various illegal schemes to the tune of more than $220,000, his unindicted girlfriend (and now-wife) Kathleen Libonati, and union president John DeBouter. Last November, Dressel and DeBouter were arrested and indicted for embezzling a combined roughly $350,000 from the Paramus, N.J.-based union and its Joint Apprentice Training Fund. DeBouter was relieved from trial last week after his lawyer collapsed from an aneurysm.

Union Corruption Update described this case in August. Federal prosecutors had alleged Richard “Buzzy” Dressel, now 64, a resident of Montvale, N.J., used his position as IBEW business manager to divert union funds to his girlfriend, Kathleen Libonati, during 2008-12. The purpose was to provide her with jobs as a union office secretary and building manager. In addition, Dressel forced the apprenticeship fund trustees to hire Libonati to provide lunch catering for job trainees at an annual salary that reached $60,000. In addition, Dressel and DeBouter, now 56, a resident of Oakland, N.J., reportedly ordered the trustees to approve a transfer of more than $108,000 to the union general fund to cover losses.

Kathleen Libonati Dressel – she and Richard Dressel married in June 2010 – for her part, testified last Thursday that she and her husband worked for every penny they made. An unindicted co-conspirator, she recalled how she was placed on the union payroll in 2008 to initiate an in-house lunch program for apprentice electricians and to cater special events. As a salaried local employee, she emphasized, she did not profit from catered union events. But earlier testimony for the prosecution last Tuesday by an ex-office manager of IBEW Local 164, Donna McManus, undermined her claims. The Joint Apprentice Training Fund trustees, she stated, initially had refused to sign a check for $108,196 until their lawyer gave them a letter of approval for the transfer. The trustees had been told that the training program represented a portion of the salary and benefits payable to Ms. Libonati. “I was a little upset because I felt I was doing something wrong,” testified McManus, who cut the check on March 22, 2010, on orders from DeBouter.

In the end, the 12-member jury convicted Richard Dressel on two of the eight counts against him. The first conviction was for conspiring with others to embezzle $145,973 in local salary and benefits during January 2008-March 2010 to illegally enrich his girlfriend/wife. The second conviction was for embezzling $75,554 in salary and benefits on her behalf during March 2008-January 2009 for what amounted to nonexistent work. The jury returned verdicts of “not guilty” on a separate conspiracy count and five other embezzlement charges. Dressel’s lawyer, Jeffrey Smith, declined to comment on the verdict.